Israel and Hamas extend truce, agree to free more hostages and prisoners

(Leo Correa | Associated Press)

Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend their cease-fire until Wednesday, raising the prospect of further exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and a longer halt to their deadliest and most destructive war.
    
Eleven Israeli women and children freed by Hamas entered Israel on Monday night after more than seven weeks in captivity in Gaza in the fourth swap under the original four-day truce. Thirty-three Palestinian prisoners released by Israel arrived early Tuesday in east Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Ramallah. The prisoners were greeted by loud cheers as their bus made its way through the streets of Ramallah.
    
The deal for two additional days of cease-fire raised hopes for further extensions, which would also allow more aid into Gaza, which has been battered by weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground offensive that have driven three-quarters of the 2.3 million population from their homes.
    
But Israel says it remains committed to crushing Hamas' military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza. That would likely mean expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza to the south.
    
Roughly 240 hostages were captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that ignited the war. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza. About 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial incursion by Hamas.